Before I started getting paid to freelance at the beginning of this year, I wrote a lot for free. I became an online contributor to as many sites as I could. When you’re trying to establish your credibility, and even your brand, that’s just what you do.
But as I slowly transitioned into freelancing full-time, I stopped making the time to contribute to sites that couldn’t pay me to produce content for them. Even though writing for free isn’t ideal, having a place to publish your thoughts – where there is no pressure, no deadline and no one telling you every little thing you’re doing wrong – is comforting. Fulfilling, even. It’s a relief.
I realized this morning that if I wanted to contribute to those sites again – if I wanted to volunteer my words for the sake of giving people something nice to read – I could no longer take on as many clients. And because business is business, student loans are student loans and not having my own home office is giving me hives (siiiiigh), I can’t afford to work less simply because I want to write for free sometimes.
I am the kind of person who wants to write everywhere. As often as I can. And I can’t.
I call this struggle “write-life balance.” You know, like work-life balance, but with writing. You would love to believe you’re some kind of superhuman because you have this career and this side gig and you volunteer and you have friends and you’re up-to-date on all the latest TV shows – we all would. But I’ve learned the hard way – again; again and once more – that it isn’t possible to do it all.
Perhaps you could, for a day or even for a week. But anything more than that, and you burn out. You crash, and it hurts. You break, and then you have to heal, and that takes time away from the things you want to do. You can build up a little bit of resistance to fatigue, but pressure is suffocating. It sucks the life out of you, and recovery is slow.
I would love to be able to keep up with everything – blogging, writing a novel, getting paid to write and edit and the like, plus more – but over the past few months, my limits have been challenged. I’ve pushed myself too far, again, and I’ve had to all but abandon projects I care about because I wasn’t making money working on them. One of the greatest challenges for every creator is trying to decide if something is worth doing, whether you get paid to do it well or not.
You’re a writer. You can write about anything you want; you have that power. But you also have to remember that without that power, you are not your true self. And if you expend all your power by trying to distribute it between too many things at once, you won’t be able to create as freely as you often have the privilege to do. And that will hurt. You will not be OK with that.
How do you divide your time between what you can do for free and what you must do to support yourself and/or others? I don’t have an answer to that question. If I did, I probably wouldn’t even be writing about this here. The problem is, every writer – and every writer’s life – is different. But I hope that if you are struggling with this, you will be able to make time for writing when you aren’t working, and time for you when you aren’t writing. I hope you find balance in your life. I will try to do the same.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.